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  • Distracted, you glance back toward the city for a moment, looking on as man-made fireflies begin filling the windows of every room in the septic sprawl with feverish light. The carnival's Ferris wheel switches on and blazing in its full evening glory looks like a bug zapper. You wonder what fantastic dreams aimlessly skate around this city's parasitic maw, and which ones will be engulfed tonight. Will the buildings bend as sunflowers tomorrow and block out the sun? Or will nature's little hoplites pierce through the cracks of the city's asphalt floors in new green shoots, willing those towers of glass, stone, and steel to dust?
    But these thoughts are oppressive, claustrophobic, they aren't for this place, and begin to melt into the back of some mental dark room where all things unimportant are filed for a later date.

    Your thoughts are painted blue...

    The pier is filled with the laughter of happy families. The scent of sugar and grease clings to the air, sticking to the back of your tongue as a palatable thickness that slides slowly into the pit of your stomach. A rock. A cancer. The old carnival rides creak overhead, strange idols to the worship of joy and adrenaline that dance amidst the glow of jaundiced neon and rows of dying bulbs. The monotonous drone of turn of the century carnival music begins to ravage your senses. You keep moving along the pier, past the witch's wheel and the fun house, out of the decrepit theme park, and down a set of salt-worn stairs that lead to the sand and surf.
    Removing your sandals, you meander toward a rocky outcropping that lies across the loose mounds of sand, still warm from the mid-July sun now setting in the west, inoculating the sky with sherbet hues: the cure for the common day. The warm evening wind is blowing in gentle gusts that are just enough to kick up the sand and roll it into the sides of your ankles between footfalls of a relaxed stride. A feeling of calm begins to overtake you as your glance traces back along the pier, up the coast, and finally settling on the ocean beyond the nearby rocks that hump above the sand.
    As you near the outcropping, it becomes more defined, and in this light reminds you of driftwood. Climbing up the uneven steps etched into the rock face is easy enough, and you are surprised to find that they feel like the wood of the pier as well—having been weathered by wind, water, sand, and salt. Stepping up to the summit of these rocks, you find a small tidal pool eroded into the center of the massive shelf five feet ahead. The pool is clear, although its bottom is imperceptible, and you think that it must drain when the tide goes out.
    You dust off a seat amongst the etched rock and place your feet just above the tidal pool, lowering them only enough to put them even with the surface tension. You can feel the warmth of the water as it begins to cling to your heels and encroach on the pads of your toes. The wind that blows between the water and your arches is chilly, so you allow gravity to completely submerge them, and they fall out of view.

    Somewhere the ocean rises...

    The sun is lower now, and only the occasional faint cry of laughter makes its way from the carnival, becoming perceivable over the shrieking of the overhead gulls, orgiastically gorging themselves on carnival garbage.
    In this small moment, you feel how far removed from the everyday you truly are, away from the people clamoring up and down the boardwalk, away from the shouts, the laughter, the frustration, the uncertainty. Away from the cars, the trucks, the noise, the pollution, the cityscape. Away from the elephant ears, half-eaten corn dogs, moldy pretzels, the acrid scent of nacho cheese, bile, and the syrupy brown solution of dissolved cotton candy and soda pop that mingles around trash barrels. Away from the tilt-a-whirl with its grinding motor and the roller coaster that shudders haphazardly with every new occupant—away from the steel, the concrete, the rust, the structure itself.
    You are so far removed from all of it, yet its presence still lurks in the corner of your eye, and on the edge of your senses. The faint smell of the deep fryers occasionally overpowers the scent of the sweet brine that reeks of marine life intermingling with decay. The odor is distinctly yellow, like sour milk, it comes in with the tide and sits somewhere between the crests of the waves, and the spray that gently mists your arms and face.

    The ocean...

    Its surface is a mirror with a million facets that glows a gentle orange and pink at the edges of the horizon. At the center, it shines in a blindingly white cone that makes its way from the crimson sphere that is about to touch down in the distance. Its point shines directly to you, becoming thinner and thinner, until the sun disappears beneath the horizon. For a moment, there are half expectations of a deafening sizzle, and a plume of steam to rush skyward and blanket the planet in ignorance of the unseen orbits overhead.
    The sky is clear, and the moon is out tonight, it’s waxing crescent smiles down on you in celestial monochrome while the stars hold a glint like heavenly teeth that pierce through the gloaming and pollution. This moment seems familiar, like a memory sunken beneath the waves, peeking its head cautiously above the surface; it feels like you're standing on the edge of discovery, half expecting an audible click. An epiphany. But your grip on it loosens, and it ebbs and flows through you to the rhythm of the waves.

    The shoreline erodes and the city slips closer to the water's edge...

    The ocean has become a black field highlighted by streams of moonlight that are mercurial against the gentle hills and valleys that form and melt against the starry backdrop. The indeterminable void between each heavenly body reminds you of volcanic glass; covering the planet in an opaque dome. You lie back and stare heaven square in the face: trying to count the stars and see how far into the depths you can stare while catching glimpses of the depths staring back.
    The excess light from the pier spills down into the inky water below and casts long shadows of the festivities that rest at its apex. You feel stretched very thin between two points of limitless distance, torn between the city and the vacant horizon that sits silently amidst the sea’s foam. You feel as though you are very large in the grand scheme of things and simultaneously very small; one grain of sand in a cosmic windstorm.
    You exhale slowly and remove your feet from the tidal pool which has dropped several inches since you first entered, and feel out a path down the steep steps of weather-beaten rock. The sand, which is cool to the touch, sticks to your feet and between your toes as you move up the beach and toward the pier to where the sights, sounds, and smells of society greet your senses as if they were memories. You dust off your feet and slide them back into the cold sandals near the steps of the pier. They feel stiff, heavy, and begin to squeak unnaturally as you walk up the salty stairs back toward civilization. To go back to the people, the noise, the blinding lights, the saccharin, the filth, the dull roar of the mundane that has pierced your life at every opportunity until this moment of strange clarity. A kind of certainty mixed with an uncertain serenity. To assimilate back into the storm, changed, if only temporarily, by a few brief moments separated from the fray, given just enough time to settle, look, and listen. Forever changing because it is your only constant. Worn from the weathering of something much larger, floating through the limited plane between a fathomless sea and sky -as unique as a singular grain of sand.

    Your thoughts go out with the tide...
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